One Team

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to be part of worship experiences in multiple churches and ministries. Big churches. Small churches. Living Rooms. Huge auditoriums. Lots of different situations. And, I’ve gotten to serve in a variety of roles – playing guitar, leading worship, speaking, directing video, running camera. I’ve even run sound a few times in a pinch. In all these different places I’ve gotten to see how things work behind the scenes. And frankly, it’s not always great.

At the first church where I ever served in the Arts, the band and the tech team never saw each other face to face. The tech team arrived well before the band, set up, and then headed to Front of House to do their jobs. The band arrived later, set up gear, rehearsed, played the service and then left. The two teams never talked to each other except through microphones. I still have no idea where the tech team went or what they did between rehearsal and the service. I can only remember what one of them even looked like. And I have no idea why things worked this way. It was just the way it was done there. So strange.

At Watermark, we’ve taken a different approach. From the time we were meeting in a high school auditorium we’ve had a One Team concept. You may play guitar, or run lights. You might be doing the announcements or running monitors. It really doesn’t matter. If you are one of the people helping to make our services happen, you have a place in the green room with everyone else.  Here’s what that concept has done for us.

No Prima Donnas and No Chips on Shoulders

When you walk into the green room at Watermark between services, it’s hard to know who does what. Everyone is hanging out together regardless of their role on the team. We eat together, joke, pray and talk about what’s going on in our lives. When that sort of thing is happening, it’s difficult to keep that chip on your shoulder. When you know someone else and you know what’s going on in his life, its more difficult to be demanding and condescending. He’s your friend. So you treat him like a friend. It’s great.

No Us vs Them Mentatlity

We’re all One Team, so there is no Them. It’s just us.. So, when something goes wrong, we all work together to fix it. The responsibility may land more squarely in the tech area or the band area but either way, because we’re all one team, we’re committed to making things work. We figure out the problem and move on.

Volunteer Retention

Let’s face it.  Doing multiple services on a Sunday or over a weekend isn’t easy.  It’s taxing.  And when you aren’t getting along with the people you’re serving with it’s even worse. But when you actually get along and hang out together, it’s different.  It becomes a source of joy in your life and not something you’re slogging your way through so you can “serve” the church.  When people enjoying serving, they continue serving.

In closing, to be perfectly honest, I’ve struggled with writing this post.  I don’t want to seem like we have this thing figured out better than anyone else. I know that’s not the case. However, I do know that I really enjoy serving with the team here – more than any place I’ve been. And I do think that this One Team concept is a big part of it.  I’d also really enjoy hearing from other people about positive experiences they’ve had serving in churches.  What made the difference? How did you accomplish it? Leave a comment below.

lesbrownOne Team

Slack – Team Communication That Actually Works

Slack iOS app

Slack iOS app

At Watermark, as our tech team has grown, communication has become more difficult. It makes sense, the more people in the organization, the more complex the organization becomes. It’s not out of hand at this point, but as I look toward the future, I can see a day when a weekly meeting and a few emails isn’t really going to get it done from the team communication perspective.

So, we’ve tried a few different tools to help us stay connected as a team: email, group texts, group voice messages (voxer), shared calendars (iCal), shared task lists (wunderlist, iOS reminders), project management software (trello, asana), and the list goes on. As we implemented all of these tools at different times, we found that while any one of them might be helpful and workable, none of them actually solved our problem.

Enter Slack.

I stumbled across Slack on the Mac App Store a few months ago. It was very highly rated and the price was right – free – so I checked it out. As I started using it, I almost dismissed it right away. I’m so glad I didn’t. At first glance, Slack looked like a simple group-text app. And while it does include that feature, it’s so much more than that. It’s really not just an app at all. It’s actually a very powerful team communication platform.

Instead of writing a new todo app or project management app, Slack’s developers created a platform that incorporates the great features of the apps your team is probably already using, and makes all of those apps searchable in one place. Think about that for a second. If your team has a huge project coming up – a conference you’re hosting on site – any info your team has posted on Google Drive, Dropbox, Asana, Group Text Messages, etc. – all becomes searchable and readable in one place. Powerful.

It’s also very easy to implement. Pop your work email address into a box at and a free account for your team magically appears. You don’t even have to send out requests for your team to join if you don’t want to. Anyone with an email address from the same domain can jump on and add themselves to your free account – if you want to allow that sort of thing.

You may have noticed that I used the word “free”. That’s right. You can have an unlimited number of people join your account at no charge. They do have some paid account options, but at this point, for our team, the free account has been more than we need. And best of all, we’re using it on a daily basis. Building up a searchable database of information on everything we do as a team. Greatness.

If you want to try Slack, you can download it on iOS, android, or in the app store. If you’re on Windows or Linux, you can use the web version which works just great. And, of course, any change you make in one place automagically syncs to all of your other devices and team members.

I can’t recommend Slack highly enough. Check it out yourself and leave a comment with your thoughts. I think you’ll be really glad you tried it.

lesbrownSlack – Team Communication That Actually Works

Book Review – The Checklist Manifesto

The Checklist Manifesto

The Checklist Manifesto

At Watermark, our Tech Department’s main goal is to never be noticed. We want to be behind the spotlight not in it. There’s a good reason for that. You might be thinking it’s because of our introverted personality types, but that’s not really the case. It’s actually a rather important element of our culture. The way we see it, if people are noticing what we’re doing, then they’re probably missing whatever they’re supposed to be experiencing in that moment. And even though we’ve been at this for more than a few years, we can still make some fairly simple mistakes that get us noticed.

You know how this happens. The video director forgets to check a video before the service starts. So he wants to check to make sure the video is cued up correctly. Unbeknownst to him, the sound guy left the video channel open in the house because he didn’t want to flub the transition. As the Pastor drives home his second point on a tricky passage, the video director hits “play” and the first five seconds of the upcoming video echoes through the house, completely unnerving the pastor, and worse, the audience as well.

These are the sort of issues we want to get rid of. Frankly we don’t have a lot of them, but when we make them, they are costly. So it’s worth it to work hard to make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen. That’s where this book comes in.

Our Executive Pastor suggested that our Arts Pastor check out The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right and he passed it along to me as well. I eagerly ordered a copy and read it rather quickly.

To be perfectly honest, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I thought it was a how-to manual to writing effective checklists. In reality, the author, Atul Gawande, spends quite a bit of time telling the story of how his team implemented checklists in his hospital and for hospitals around the world through the World Health Organization. It’s actually an interesting story and does help to flesh out the book quite a bit, but it did take a little more reading than I was expecting to get to the stuff I was looking for – the how-to. Eventually I got there, and it was totally worth it.

Here are a few of the main points Gawande makes that can help you make effective checklists for your team:

  • Good checklists are precision instruments.  They offer only the critical information needed to assure that the job gets done.
  • Good checklists actually help individuals work better as part of a team.
  • Good checklists are not lengthy or wordy. Rule of thumb is no more than 5-9 items. More than that and people will skip over items in the list.
  • Good checklists are tested in the real world.  Test them and re-work them until they are the effective tool you need them to be.

This is just a taste of all that Gawande lays out in the book.

At Watermark, we are already putting this to work. Our tech staff is  currently developing our first rough draft checklists and we will start testing them in a few weeks with our volunteer teams.  As Tech Director, I’m really excited about this.  I’m already using one list myself as I prepare for Sunday mornings.  After one weekend I realized I’ve got a few items I can edit out of my list to make it more effective.  Over the next few weeks we will work on these lists together to make them as useful as possible before rolling them out to our volunteer teams. By then they should be lean, mean, error-correcting machines.

All things considered, even though Checklist Manifesto didn’t match up to my expectations, I definitely recommend it.  There’s no question it’s worth the money and the time.  Implementing these processes will absolutely help your team catch errors before they happen.

lesbrownBook Review – The Checklist Manifesto